There are three verses in the holy Quran [41:30; 46:13; 72:16] where the word Istiqamu (for plural) has been used in relation to the character of the faithful follower of Islam. Its purport is to remind Muslims that accepting Islam as their faith is not a one-way ticket to attaining material advancement in life which has its own set of rules. On the contrary, the faithful follower may be put to additional hardship by Allah to test his faith. A Muslim is therefore advised in these verses to remain steadfast and stand firm in his faith because the reward for it is ultimate happiness and peace in the hereafter. Moreover, a Muslim who says Allah is his keeper and stands firm in his Deen is never alone because his well wishers and guardians are angels.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ
Translation: Those who say, Allah is our Lord and then stand firm in their faith, upon them angels often descend say¬ing do not fear nor be sad, but receive the glad tidings that [Allah] has promised Paradise to you. [Surah Fussilat – 41:30]
Istiqama involves three things: 1) A firm belief that there is no god but Allah who is the creator of the universe; 2) following the commandments of Allah to do good; and 3) abstaining from evil which Allah forbids. People have often misunderstood this finer point regarding Istiqama. They think that by following Islam properly they will become economically sound, materially prosperous, socially powerful and globally respectful. But the reward of Istiqama is greater than these material wishes. Allah has promised His servants who stand firm in their faith two things which can’t be bought even if the resources of the whole world are put together to acquire them. These are: absolute happiness and absence of fear. The Quran promises the believers that if they are stay firmly in their faith, on the day of judgement they will not be afraid of their accountability and they will not be sad about what awaits them after death because Paradise will be their award.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
Translation: Those who say Allah is our Lord and then stand firm in their faith, [they shall] never have any fear, nor grief. [Surah Al-Ahqaf- 46:13]
Those who first embraced the message of Islam in Makkah at the hands of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah Subhanuhu wa Ta’ala be upon him, were mostly poor and downtrodden. This was a clear sign of the prophetic tradition from Abraham to Noah and onward to Moses and Jesus. The majority of the faithful in all times and eras were not from the ruling elite, nor were they rich. They came from the lower ranks of their society. The pagans of Makkah used to taunt Bilal, Ammar, Suhaib and Ibn Masood about what did they get from accepting Islam because it did not change their economic or social standing in society. In fact, it became worse because they were subjected to sanctions, ridicule, abuse and physical violence to revert them back to paganism.
One need not feel discouraged that being a Muslim means signing for a life of hardship and a tough living because the real rewards of good deeds are postponed until the day of judgement. It is not so. The difference is that for a Muslim this life is transitory and not the aim of living. Irrespective of the level of one’s faith or no faith, every human being is exposed to life’s opposites namely, day and night, warm and cold, drought and flood, knowledge and ignorance, kindness and anger, food and hunger, health and sickness, joy and pain, ease and hardship and life and death. Everyone goes through these pairs although the intensity of his endurance can be short or too sharp to bear. Subject to these laws of nature, Allah has promised that the life of the believers will be easy in this world.
من اعرض عن ذكرى فان له معىشة ضنكا …الخ
Translation: And he who rejects My message I will make life a struggle for him… [Surah Ta Ha 20:124]
This is better understood by looking at the third verse about Istiqama which testifies that even the present life of the believer is full of blessings. It provides further information that the condition of remaining steadfast in faith is not only prescribed for humans but also for Jinns who are also believers and non-believers.
وَأَلَّوِ اسْتَقَامُوا عَلَى الطَّرِيقَةِ لَأَسْقَيْنَاهُم مَّاء غَدَقًا
Translation: Those who stand firm in their faith, We shall certainly shower them with [abundant and] blessed water (rain). [Surah Al-Jinn – 72:16]
The reference to abundant water as a reward is significant because water was rare in Makkah at a time when the early believers were being told by their pagan friends and relatives that they had gained nothing by accepting Islam. Water is also a source of life and sustenance and therefore the best thing Allah gave to this community as a precious commodity was rain or springs. Allah has promised that His faithful servants who observe Istiqama will not only be rewarded with the absence of fear and sadness (see the two verses above), but they will also benefit in this world through His blessings which are symbolised by the reference to water in this verse.
Islamabad: 20 June 2017